Winning Mental Strategies for Weight Loss
Realistic expectations lead to lasting lifestyle changes.
What's keeping you from losing weight successfully? Chances
are, it's not just what you're eating and how much (or how little) you're
exercising. For most people, a major part of the problem is how they think
about their food, their exercise, and themselves.
(Not So) Great Expectations
Life's greatest stresses come from unmet expectations. Here you
are, expecting to lose precisely 2.5 pounds per week. Where did you get that?
Develop realistic expectations. Most people who are 20 to 50 pounds overweight
can count on shedding one to two pounds per week, if they're on top of their
game. (But we're not always on top of our game. More about that later.) You get
excited and want to take care of this problem all at once, and that's not what
this is about. Learn how to take off the weight commensurate with what your
body can give you.
You might be saying, "Peeke, that's too slow. I want to do
it faster." Well, then, you'll suffer. With short cuts, I'll guarantee you
consequences -- consequences you don't want. Short cuts give you consequences,
patience gives you progress.
Regroup and Recover
Now, let's talk about how to handle it when you're not at the
top of your game. Life happens. Maybe you're doing very well and have lost 10
pounds of the 50 you're trying to lose. Then life hits. Your mother gets ill,
your husband gets depressed, or you're having serious problems at work. Since
life has obstacles, expect them. If you do, you'll be much better prepared to
handle them. People who do best at maintaining a healthy body weight over time
are people I call "master regroupers."
How do you regroup? First, expect to have multiple starts.
Maybe you did pretty well this week, but then winter hit and it killed your
plans to exercise outside. When something comes along, don't feel hopeless,
helpless, defeated. Have in the back of your mind a plan A, B, and C. A is
wonderful, B is OK, and C is not so great, but it'll do. A might be a beautiful
walk outside, B might be, "If it snows, I'll be on the treadmill at the
gym." C might be, "If I can't get to the gym, I'll climb the stairs at
home for 20 minutes." It's the people who are paralyzed in plan A who fall
apart. They find it impossible to sustain any kind of lifestyle change.
Your Own Worst Enemy
People have way too much negative speak. One of my patients is
a lawyer in downtown Washington, married to a lawyer, and they have three kids.
You can imagine her balancing act. She came to me last year at 5'5" and 250
pounds -- at only 44 years old. She was not in great shape. But she started in
with me and plugged along on her weight loss plan, losing two to five pounds a
month. Well, she just hit 198 pounds. While she still has a way to go, she's
knocked off 52 pounds! She looks like a brand new woman. But you know what she
said to me? Instead of rejoicing and saying "What an achievement!" she
said, "God, why did it take me so long?"
She completely missed the point. I don't care if it took her 25
years -- she dropped 52 pounds. Although she hit plateaus several times, she
never went back. She didn't gain weight during her most stressful times. I
caught her at it and she said, "I had no idea I was thinking that way."
Don't beat yourself up! When I trained Olympians, I asked them how they handled
a crappy day or a bad week. Invariably, they never beat themselves up. They
acknowledged what it was, and just got over it.